Bangsamoro as a "New Unity"

The tragic anti-terrorism police operation in Mamasapano that led to the death of over 60 people has re-awakened deep-seated fears and biases in our society. This is understandable. What happened came as a shock, especially since we are close to enacting a law, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), that is expected to address the century-long struggle for self-determination and development by our Moro brothers and sisters in Mindanao.

There is a critical misconception that is quite common even to those who would opt to give peace in Mindanao a chance. Some people who are mostly doubtful of the peace process are under the impression that a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a victory for the MILF that comes with a reward, including (to some, at least) the power over the to-be Bangsamoro entity itself. This is wrong. It is a big misconception and a misunderstanding. 

A Victory for All 

A peace agreement is a victory for the entire Philippines because it will end the ongoing war between the government and the MILF. Anything that stops hostilities in any part of the country--even in just a home--is always a victory for all.

The proposed Bangsamoro entity to be legislated through the the BBL is a product of decades of thinking, reflection, discussions, trust-building and other peace-building efforts by numerous individuals, groups and institutions at the grassroots, in government, in civil society and social movements. This is the closest we got to a comprehensive solution to the seemingly unending conflict and the worsening underdevelopment and rule of a violent few in Mindanao. Some of the sharpest minds among our public leaders with solid credential in serving the Filipino interest have worked on it for decades. A lot of ordinary citizens in Mindanao, who face the wrath of war on a daily basis, are ready to put their faith in it. 

Let it be made clear that the establishment of the Bangsamoro does not mean we are giving the power to govern to an entity, not even to the MILF. The MILF, like other forces, will just be another political force that will be participating democratically in the government that will take a ministerial form. 

The ministerial form of government is similar to a parliamentary form, which facilitates proportional representation ensuring broader programmatic representation. This is expected to facilitate the creation of programmatic political parties that will take part in elections offering a diverse set of platforms and programs. Such is a forward step in Philippine governance correcting an institutional flaw in our current electoral-political system that makes elections exclusive, personality-oriented and money-driven.

Part of the peace agreement is the decommissioning of arms and the cessation of hostilities and use of violence. The MILF, under the peace agreement, will be surrendering their weapons and will be letting the rule of law prevail--a state that is almost non-existent in Mindanao at the moment because of the continuing threat of war. A threat of war will persist and will continue to be justified for as long as a people with a unique history, culture and belief system are structurally excluded, with such structural exclusion legitimizing their use of violence.

Stronger Philippine State

The Philippines as a nation-state will be strengthened with the proposed Bangsamoro solution. A nation-state is weakened whenever its monopoly over the use of legitimate violence is threatened by an armed rebellion; it is strengthened when it ends the rebellion through peace. 

The social contract between the Filipino people and its government will be stronger by correcting a form of structural exclusion that has made us, the people, deeply divided for too long, rendering us weak in making those who hold power accountable to the common good--the difficult common good that can only be graspable when it is binding and made common by our unity and engagement.

A "New Unity"

The words of Pope Francis in a book he wrote when he was still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio provides an apt framework of understanding the Bangsamoro solution: 

"I believe that war must never be the path to resolution, because that would imply that one of the two poles of tension absorbed the other. Neither does it resolve in a synthesis, which is a mix of the two extremes--a hybrid that has no future. The two poles of tension are resolved at a higher level, looking toward the horizon, not a synthesis, but in a new unity, in a new pole that maintains the virtue of both, it assumes them, and like that it can make progress. It is not an absorption, nor a hybrid synthesis, it is a new unity." (On Heaven and Earth, 217-218) 

Such is the idea of the Bangsamoro solution. The Bangsamoro is a "new unity," not one absorbing the other, not even a synthesis, but a progress; for it "maintains the virtue of both, it assumes them" by resolving "two poles of tension" "at a higher level, looking toward the horizon."

Let's give this "new unity" a chance. Let's give the Bangsamoro a chance.